The Constitution as Sovereign

The sovereign is an idea that really hasn't been covered up to this point in our adventure through postmodernism; the original source of power, I feel, has been neglected for the end product of that power, namely structures and institutions within society that have come to manipulate it for their own ends and purposes. These institutions and structures I speak of are things such as the media, MNCs, and political institutions, yet none of these things are sovereign in and of themselves; they all derive their power from something else whether it be money or some idea of power.

bare life = blank surface = Muselmann?

Another idea I'd love to hear thoughts on is the connection between the condition of being as bare life and as Harraway's "blank surface" for inscription by power. In both cases, I read the situation as one in which a medium of separation between power and the rawest existence of human life seems to have been displaced.

oh wow.

I'm tempted to blame it more on how my experience of reading the book played out (a four and a half hour caffeine fueled rush) than on the material itself, but I felt more totally shocked and awed by the end of this book than any other we've read yet. Not that the material itself didn't play a decisive role as well: it hit a lot closer to home as being explicitly concerned with the most basic definitions of life itself, and the descriptions of Nazi experimentation on "VP"s were riveting in a completely horrifying car crash kind of way.

By The Way


Anyone willing to review my Term Paper? Anyone not partnered off yet? Any altruists?

the unhappy consciousness and attachment

Even though in our reading I tend often to regard much of this theory as, whether it's intended to be so or not, having more to do with other theory than real life, ultimately one has to compare theoretical ideas with lived experience. It's always nice after all to be able to sort of have an idea of whether what you think someone is arguing squares with your impression of reality or not.

Class Discussion


Something I'd like us to talk about in class today is whether Butler, who really does seem committed to finding (to crib capt. haddock) 'escape mechanisms' from this process of subordination and subjectivation, ever gives a convincing account of how those escape mechanisms would work. Haddock pointed to one escape mechanism on p.28, this notion of alterity, i.e.

if you really liked the reading.. can join the Judith Butler is my Homegirl facebook group, or just print out the Judith Butler trading card, which lists her "strengths" as: "groundbreaking, constructive critical skills" and "weaknesses" as "increasingly impenetrable writing style".


On page 170, Butler (citing Freud) distinguishes between melancholia and mourning: in mourning, the object is "declared" lost, but in melancholia, no declaration is possible. Melancholia therefore paves the way for mourning.

gender performance

Before reading The Psychic Life of Power, I had often thought of the performance of drag as a sort of simulacrum.

Nietzsche's freedom


In reference to Hegel's story of the bondman and lord, Butler writes "If the object defines him, reflects back what he is, is the signatory text by which he acquires a sense of who he is, and if those objects are relentlessly sacrificed, the he is a relentlessly self-sacrificing being" (40). Someone like the bondsdsman will only recognize his identity if he also acknowledges the bleakness of his life. His ownership of anything is a fleeting one. Nothing tangible can ever define him because he ultimately has no control over the object.

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